Practice CS: Best practices for setting user preferences

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Practice CS User Preferences available in Setup > User Preferences allow staff members to customize program operations. This topic reviews the user preferences available in four areas of the program and provides recommendations. 

Setting preferences

There are three ways to set user preferences.

Default user preferences are automatically assigned to new staff at the time they are added.

To choose default user preferences:

  1. Choose Setup > Firm.
  2. Click on the Preferences tab.
  3. Click the ellipse button next to Default User Preferences for new Staff.
  4. Set the default user preferences as desired. See the Options section below for details on each option.

You can choose user preferences for each staff member in Staff Setup. This allows you to modify the user preferences for each staff member without logging into Practice CS as that staff member.

  1. Choose Setup > Staff.
  2. Select a staff member and click the Edit button.
  3. Click the Main tab.
  4. Click the ellipse button across from Setup User Preferences.
  5. Set the user preferences for the staff as desired. See the Options section below for details on each option.

    Note: You can also set the staff's preferences to the default by clicking Reset to new Staff defaults for Firm.

If you want to restrict access to user preferences so that staff cannot change their own user preferences, you should restrict access Staff Setup and User Preferences in Setup > Security Groups > Practice CS > Menu for that staff's security group.

Each staff member can modify their individual User Preferences unless you have denied access in the security group(s) to which they are assigned.

For a staff member to modify their user preference they can:

  1. Choose Setup > User Preferences.
  2. Set the user preferences as desired. See the Options section below for details on each option.
  3. Click the OK button.

All changes to user preferences take effect immediately and apply only to the staff member who made them.

Options

These are the options available for user preferences.

These options affect system behavior throughout the program.

  • Alternate background color on lists. Check this option to have alternate shading of lines on all screens that display a grid or table, including data entry screens. It is strongly recommended that this option be selected as it makes using these screens much easier.
  • Use Enter key to move between fields. Microsoft navigation standards call for using the Tab key to move from field to field. Check this field to have the Enter key act like the Tab key when moving between fields on most screens. Since the TAB key will still function the same way whether this option is chosen or not, it is recommended that this option be selected.
  • Enable desktop notifications for monitored events. The Project Management, Client Management, and Staff Management modules provide the ability to notify selected individuals when a monitored event occurs. The available notifications can be found on the Notifications tab in Firm Setup. You can be notified in one or both of two ways:

    Email - The system can send you an email when the event occurs.

    Desktop notification - The system can display a small notification on your screen similar to Outlook desktop alerts.

    Some users find the desktop notifications distracting and prefer to get their notification by email only. You may wish to turn this option on and then turn it off if you find it undesirable. If you do, be sure you are set up to receive your notifications by email so they are not missed.

  • Show desktop notifications until closed. If you choose to enable notifications, you will see that the notification appears on your screen and then disappear after several seconds. If you do not see it when it appears, you will miss it. Checking this option causes the desktop notification to remain visible until you click the [X] in the upper right corner of the notification. If you choose to enable notifications, it is strongly recommended that you choose this option as well so the notifications will not be missed.
  • Favorite screen. This option allows you to select a screen that will automatically be opened each time you start Practice CS. It is recommended you set the favorite screen to the one you will most oftentimes use or want to see upon opening the program. Examples are:

    A staff member that only enters time in the system will want to select Time & Expense Entry.

    A partner that is using Practice CS to monitor staff and firm performance may want to select Firm Dashboard.

These options affect the behavior of the Time & Expense Entry screen.

  • Entry Field Default. For several fields, you can specify a default value that will automatically be entered when inputting a time or expense transaction. Enter a default value for fields that can have only one value or you enter a specific value for most of your transactions. You can always override the default if necessary.

    The Sheet Date field allows you to choose from three options:

    • Today's date - the system date.
    • Most Recent - the latest date on which at least one transactions has been entered.
    • Blank - you must enter the sheet date manually.

    If your timesheets contain time for one day, Today's date is recommended. If your timesheets contain time for more than one day, Most Recent is recommended.

    The Date field allows you to choose from three options:

    • Sheet Date - the date entered in the Sheet Date field.
    • Today's date - the system date.
    • Blank - you must enter the date manually on each transaction.

    If your timesheets contain time for one day, Sheet date is recommended. If your timesheets contain time for more than one day, then Sheet Date is recommended.

  • Entry Field Skip. If you enter a default value for a field, or a default value is not permitted, you can choose to have the system skip over the field so you do not have to enter or tab through it. It is recommended that you select to skip a field when a default value is specified or for fields that you typically do not enter data into such as the Time Rate, Timer, Biller Note, Custom Fields, and CPE Course Selection.

    Note: If you skip a field, you can always click into it should you need to enter or change its value.

  • Entry Field Hide. For any field you choose to skip, you can also select to hide the field so that it does not appear on the screen at all. You will want to skip only fields in which you never need to enter a value or see the value that might be entered by the system automatically, such as the Time Rate.
  • Entry Field Description. You can add the client sort name, engagement description, project description, and/or activity description to the data entry line. This can be helpful when you use numeric codes for items and you want to verify that you have selected the right value. However, these additional fields will make the data entry line longer and may force it off the right side of the screen requiring you to scroll horizontally to see the entire transaction which can significantly slow the data entry process. If you choose to show descriptions, you typically won't need to include engagement or project since the IDs of these items are usually self-descriptive. If you choose not to show any descriptions, you can still view the description for the currently selected transaction at the bottom of the Time & Expense entry screen.
  • Timer Rounding. The Timer rounding options allow you to select a time increment to use when booking time accumulated by a timer and to indicate how the time is to be rounded to that increment. Most firms record time in even increments, usually 0.25 or 0.1 hours so hours and billable amounts are round numbers. It is recommended that you set the rounding increment to the same increment you use when manually entering time. It is also recommended that you set the rounding method to Always round up so you will not lose billable time that is less than half of the time increment.

    The second set of options in Timer rounding is whether to round each elapsed time or the accumulated elapsed time. The first option, Round each elapsed time, applies the rounding to each time increment recorded when you start and stop the timer which you can do as many times as you like. The second option Round accumulated elapsed time, will apply the rounding to the total time accumulated. is strongly recommended that you choose the second option which will yield the most accurate accounting of the time for the transaction.

  • Allow Simultaneous Timers. If checked, a staff member can have multiple timers running at one time. If not checked the staff member can have only one active timer running at a time. It is recommended that this not be checked so staff cannot accidentally double-book their time.
  • Start Timer for Projects. If this option is selected, when you click on the Solutions icon in a project or task record, the on-screen timer will automatically start. If you use timers to track your time, this option should be selected.
  • Start Timer for Phone Calls. If this option is selected, when you open a phone call interaction, the on-screen timer will automatically start. Select this option if you use timers and you usually book the time you spend on the phone with your clients.
  • Enter Hours / Minutes. This option determines whether you enter your time in hours or minutes, e.g., 0.25 hours or 15 minutes. It is strongly recommended that you enter time in hours so that your time entry screens and reports are consistent with other screens and reports in the system.
  • Implied Decimal on Amounts. If this option is checked, the system assumes the decimal point in the Hours, Units, and Amount fields is after the numbers entered, ex: 2 = 2.00. If not checked, the system adds two decimal places, ex: 2 = .02. The recommendation is to set this option with the entry method with which you are most comfortable. Note that if you always enter the decimal point manually, then your choice does not matter.
  • Auto Display Task Selection. If this option is checked, then when you enter a project ID in the Project field, the Task Selection screen will automatically open for you to indicate what task you are entering time for. If not checked, you must click on the ellipse button next to the Project field to open the Task Selection screen.

    If you use tasks, it is strongly recommended that you select this option so you will not forget to select a task. If you do not select a task, the time will be allocated to the project instead of the task.

  • Auto Display Custom Fields Entry. If this option is checked, the system will automatically open the custom fields screen at the end of the transaction. If you do not select this option, you must click on the ellipse button at the end of the transaction to open the Custom Fields screen. It is recommended that you check this option only if you enter a custom field for most or all transactions.
  • Auto Display CPE Course Selection. If this option is checked, then when you enter an activity that is classified as administrative and administrative type is CPE, a list of all CPE courses to which you are assigned opens so you can select the course to assign the time to. If you do not select this option, you must click on the ellipse button next to the Activity field to open the CPE course selection screen. It recommended that you check this option only if you track your CPE courses in Practice CS.
  • Auto Fill From Last Entry. If this option is checked, when you complete a transaction, several of the values from the current transaction will automatically copy into the next transaction.It is recommended that you check this option only if you are entering multiple transactions where most data is the same.
  • Display Billed Time and Expenses. If this option is checked, billed transactions will continue to be displayed in the timesheet. Billed transactions are designated by the icon and the values are grayed out and cannot be changed. If the option is not selected, transactions no longer appear on the timesheet on which they were entered once they are billed. It is strongly recommended that this option be selected so staff does not later question whether a transaction was billed or not yet entered.
  • Display Hash Totals. If this option is selected, an additional line is added after the last transaction that shows the total for all numerically values in the timesheet. It is strongly recommended that this option be select so staff can quickly verify that they have correctly entered their time.
  • Start-up tab. This option allows you to choose which of three tabs you want to open first when you select Time & Expense Entry.
    • Choose Entry if you typically just enter time.
    • Choose Overview if you are an administrator and typically manipulate transactions.
    • Choose Review if you use the Approve and Post Process and you are the person that approves and posts the transactions.

These options affect the behavior of the billing screens. For more information, see Setting up user preferences for billing.

  • Default invoice date. This option specifies the invoice date that will automatically be set in detail billing and the invoice date that will be used for Quick Bill, Standard Bill, Zero Bill and Recurring Bills.
    1. Choose Today's date to assign the current calendar date to your invoices.
    2. Choose Period end date to assign the last calendar day of the current period.
    3. Choose Last date used to assign the same date used for the previous invoice. This option is most useful in detail billing where you are changing the invoice date to a specific date and want all subsequent invoices to use that date.
  • Default WIP through. This option allows you to choose the last WIP entry date that will be presented in Detail billing or that will be relieved in Quick Bill, Standard Bill, and Zero Bill. Regardless of the selection, Practice CS will not present any WIP dated beyond the invoice date.
  • Automatically apply open credits. When checked, if there are any unapplied credits for the client being billed, the system will apply the open credit to the current invoice up to the amount of the invoice. If you do not want to apply the credit to this invoice, open the apply Open Credits dialog by clicking the ellipse button and zero the applied amount. It is strongly recommended that this option be selected.
  • Automatically display Apply Open Credits dialog. When checked, the Open Credits dialog opens automatically when there is an unapplied credit for the client being billed. If you do not select this option, you must click the ellipse button to open the dialog. It is strongly recommended that this option be selected so credits don't get applied without your seeing exactly what is being applied. It is particularly important if you have also selected the Automatically apply open credits option.
  • Implied decimal on amounts. If this option is checked, the system assumes the decimal point in the Amount field is after the numbers entered, ex: 2 = 2.00. If not checked, the system adds two decimal places, ex: 2 = .02. The recommendation is to set this option with the entry method with which you are most comfortable. Note that if you always enter the decimal point manually, then your choice does not matter.
  • Mark zero invoices as printed. This option causes all invoices for zero dollars to be marked as printed in the File > Print Invoices & Statements screen. On the Print Invoices and Statements screen you have the ability to filter out all invoices that have been printed. Therefore, zero dollar invoices would be marked as printed and not printed along with those invoices that have not yet been printed. Mark this option if you typically do not print zero dollar invoices.
  • Bill by. This option specifies the level of detail from which you can choose what you want to bill.
    • Choose Clients if you typically bill a client for all work you have done for them on a single invoice.
    • Choose Engagements if you want to be able to select the specific engagements you want to include on an invoice.
    • Choose Projects if you want to be able to select the specific projects you want to include on an invoice.
  • Show WIP when selecting clients to bill. If this option is checked, a column is added to the Billing Selection screen that shows the amount of WIP available to bill for each client, engagement, or project. It is recommended that this option always be selected.
  • Automatically select subsidiary Clients when selecting parent Clients. If you have created client families, then, if this option is checked, when you select the parent client of the family on the billing selection screen, the system will automatically select all the subsidiary clients in the family. If not checked you must select each member of the family individually. It is recommended to check this option if you typically bill all members of a family together on the same invoice.
  • Start-up tab. This option specifies which screen opens first when you click Detail Bill Selected.
    • Choose Summary if you typically enter a single amount to bill all open WIP.
    • Choose Time & Expenses if you typically choose the specific WIP you want to bill.
  • Default invoice date. This option specifies the date that will initially be assigned to each new invoice.
    • Choose Today's date to assign the system date.
    • Choose Period end date to assign the last day of the current period.
    • Choose Last date used if you have entered a date manually and want to use that date for all subsequent invoices.
  • Automatically apply open credits. This option causes the system to apply any unapplied payments such as prepayments, to the current invoice. Note that if the next option is not also chosen, the system will apply the credit with no indication that it has done so. This option is recommended if you typically apply open credits to the very next invoice but it is also recommended that you choose Automatically display Apply Open Credits dialogue so you can verify which payment has been applied to the invoice and change it if necessary.
  • Automatically display Apply Open Credits dialog. This option causes the system to automatically open the apply screen when there is an unapplied payment available to be applied to the current invoice. This option is strongly recommended so you will know when there is a payment to apply and, if it has been automatically applied because the above option is set, so you can verify the application is correct.
  • Bill at standard rounding. This option allows you to specify if and how the amount billed should be rounded if you choose to use the Standard Bill Selected billing method which, by default, bills the WIP for the value of the WIP.
  • Time & Expense Descriptions. These options allow you to choose which field descriptions you would like to appear on each line on the Time & Expense screen in Detail Billing. It is recommended that you choose those for which the ID is a code that you cannot readily recognize. Note that if you choose too many, the transaction line may become longer than your screen which will require that you scroll the screen horizontally to see all the values and slow the billing process.

These options affect the behavior of the Receipt & Adjustment Entry screen.

  • Entry Field Default. The options in these fields allow you to specify a default value that will be entered in each transaction automatically. It is recommended that you set a default for any field in which the value is usually the same for every transaction.

    The Control Date field allows three options:

    -- Today's date - system date

    -- Most recent - the latest date that contains at least one receipt or adjustment transaction

    -- Blank - you must enter the control date manually

    If you typically enter one day's transactions for a control date, Today's date is recommended.

    The Date field allows three options

    -- Control date - the date entered in the Control date field

    -- Today's date - system date

    -- Blank - you must enter the date manually

    If you typically enter one day's transaction for a control date, Control date is recommended.

  • Entry Field Skip. If you enter a default value for a field, or a default value is not permitted, you can choose to have the system skip over the field so you do not have to enter or tab through it. It is recommended that you select to skip a field when a default value is specified or for fields that you typically do not enter data into such as Comment.

    Note: If you skip a field, you can always click into it should you need to enter or change its value.

  • Entry Field Hide. For any field you choose to skip, you can also select to hide the field so that it does not appear on the screen at all. You will want to only skip fields in which you never need to enter a value or see the value that might be entered by the system automatically, such as the Bank Account when there is only one Bank Account value used.
  • Entry Field Description. You can add the Bank Account description, the Adjustment Bank Account description, the Client sort name, and the Transaction Type description to the data entry line. This can be helpful when you use numeric codes for items and you want to verify that you have selected the right value. However, these additional fields will make the data entry line longer and may force it off the right side of the screen requiring you to scroll horizontally to see the entire transaction which can significantly slow the data entry process. If you choose to show descriptions, you typically won't need to include either of the bank account descriptions or transaction type descriptions since the IDs of these items are usually self-descriptive.
  • Automatically apply receipts to oldest first. This option causes the system to automatically apply the receipt or credit to the oldest invoice or debit memo first. If there is any amount left over, it will then apply it to the next oldest invoice or debit memo. It is recommended that this option be selected as this is the most commonly used method to apply credits.
  • Automatically display applied amounts. This option causes the system to automatically open the apply screen so you can verify that the receipt was applied to the correct invoice(s) and modify the application if necessary. If you do not choose this option, you will need to click the ellipse button next to the Amount screen to open the apply screen. It is strongly recommended that this option be selected so you can readily verify the application of each receipt or credit.
  • Implied decimal on amounts. If this option is checked, the system assumes the decimal point in the Amount field is after the numbers entered, ex: 2 = 2.00. If not checked, the system adds two decimal places, ex: 2 = .02. The recommendation is to set this option with the entry method with which you are most comfortable. Note that if you always enter the decimal point manually, then your choice does not matter.
  • Display hash totals. If this option is selected, an additional line is added after the last transaction that shows the total for all numeric values in the receipts entry screen. It is strongly recommended that this option be select so staff can quickly verify that they have entered the correct amounts.
  • Start-up Tab. This option allows you to choose which of three tabs you want to open first when you select Receipt & Adjustment Entry.

    -- Choose Entry if you typically just enter receipts and adjustments.

    -- Choose Overview if you are an administrator and typically manipulate transactions.

    -- Choose Review if you use the Approve and Post Process and you are the person that approves and posts the transactions.

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